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Today we’re wrapping up the core values series with a big one! When I was growing up, we had play clothes and we had church clothes. They were two separate things. You didn’t wear your play clothes to church, and you didn’t wear your church clothes to play.
Sometimes it’s easy to take that mind-set when we think about educating our children. You have sacred studies, like Bible and Scripture memory, and you have secular studies, like history and math. And the two stay separate. But Charlotte Mason was quick to point out that no such separation should exist.
She held that,
We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.A Philosophy of Education, p. xxxi
Charlotte did not want us to separate life into sacred and secular. Rather, we need to teach our children that their hearts can and should be turned toward God no matter what they are doing. Their school work, their hobbies, their chores, their leisure activities, their relationships—everything offers an opportunity for continual dependence on God the Spirit as our Helper.
In other words, all of life should move us toward God—all of the things we’ve talked about in this series: our own personhood, living ideas, the way of the reason, the way of the will, our habits, the relations we form with God, the universe, other people, and ourselves. All of it. Our worship and praise may look different according to what we are experiencing or learning. When we read about a tragedy, we reflect on God’s sorrow over the effects of sin. When our wills need to make a hard choice, our hearts turn to God for help. When we’re puzzling over the reasonableness of an idea, we rely on God’s wisdom. When we study the wonders of nature, we marvel at the Creator’s power and wisdom. When we laugh together over a book, we thank God for the gift of humor and laughter.
Constant and continual worship is the golden thread that runs through all of the fabric of life. It’s not a separate garment that we turn to only on Sundays. It is a constant tuning of the heart to always be connected with God, that He is worthy of our love and trust and adoration in every situation. It is a reflex of the heart to always move toward Him whatever we encounter: the duties, interests, or joys of life.
Sometimes it’s easier to think of God as our Helper during the duties and difficulties of life. But I love how Charlotte was careful to emphasize that the Divine Spirit is our continual Helper in all of the interests and joys of life too.
One of my favorite authors, Gary Thomas, talked about the tendency we might have to view joys of life as competing with God rather than pointing us to God. Here’s what he had to say:
Christianity will always sing the song of self-denial, but we can also teach redeemed Christians to view feelings of love, pleasure, and achievement as pointing them to God instead of competing with God. I love the way C. S. Lewis treated a young reader who worried that she loved the Narnia character Aslan more than she loved Jesus. Lewis replied that she loved the Jesus in Aslan; everything that drew her to Aslan was the spirit and character of Jesus. Aslan merely demonstrated the beauty of Jesus in a way she could understand.
When a mother loves her baby, she loves maternity as created and celebrated by her heavenly Father. When God our Parent allows us to become parents, we get a glimpse of him. When we love our spouse, we love the way our divine King relates to his people. When we love music, we love God’s creativity. When we love eating, we love our Lord’s generosity and inventiveness. To the redeemed, everything we love about such pure desires reflects on God. Let’s use these desires to focus our worship and praise rather than see them as competitors.Pure Pleasure, pp. 63–64, as quoted in Simply Sacred, p. 349
And when we see it as our goal to help our children focus their worship and praise on God in every situation, to depend on the Spirit as their continual Helper in all of life, that adds new significance to our teaching. No longer are we merely working for our children or for our families; no, we are working for God. All that we do to teach our children about God, about their fellow man, about themselves, and about the universe, and all that we do to train them in good habits of thinking and behaving—all of that work is now heart-service done for God. He is our chief end; His worship is our main occupation.
Charlotte agreed. She said,
Our object is to kindle the . . . enthusiasm of childhood, which makes all work of teaching and training heart-service done for God.The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 36
A complete life of worship. No division between sacred and secular. That’s what we’re working toward. And we do not work alone; we have the Holy Spirit as our continual Helper. Such an encouragement! And such a great core value to end this series!
As we wrap up, let’s take one final pass through all the core values that we have discussed and remind ourselves of how they all fit together.
- Your child is a person, not just a mind, and he has possibilities both for good and for evil.
- Authority and obedience are natural, necessary, and fundamental in your relationship with your child, but you must respect your child as a person and not try to manipulate him.
- Therefore, you strive to keep a balance between three educational instruments—the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.
- Living ideas are necessary, because that’s what provides nourishment for your child’s mind, encourages him to do the work of self-education, and helps him form relations with a vast number of things.
- You use a curriculum that includes a generous supply of ideas across a wide variety of subjects presented in literary style, and you provide regular opportunities for your child to demonstrate the knowledge he has gained by requiring narration and the habit of attention in his lessons.
- Through living books, current events, and discussions, you encourage your child to grow in self-direction, teaching him little by little about the way of the will, the way of the reason, and his responsibility to make good choices in life.
- All of this is done with full dependence upon God, working toward one chief end: that your child will worship God in all of life.
What a great foundation for the education that we give our children! We can and should customize the methods to fit each child, but these are the timeless principles that underlie all of the methods, all that we do in educating our children. These principles are why we do what we do.
They are the core values of Charlotte Mason.
If you missed any of the core values posts, you can see the entire series here.